Washington (CNN) – A defiant Sheriff Joe Arpaio accused the Obama Justice Department of trying to "sandbag" him by filing suit against his office Thursday. On another issue rippling through Arizona politics, the lawman said he has never heard of a beheading in Arizona tied to illegal immigration.
The Justice Department said it had no choice but to file suit because it said Arpaio's office was refusing to surrender requested documents and grant its investigators access to Maricopa County Sheriff's Office personnel.
"Just recently our lawyers, in Washington, have met with them," Arpaio said in an interview with me for "John King, USA" to air Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. "They have thousands and thousands of our documents. And we thought we had this thing resolved but now they sandbag us and they sue me. Why are they doing that when we are cooperating? It took them a year-and-a-half and why now?
“You know, this is the third lawsuit they've filed against the state of Arizona, now a - a school district and now me. Three times all over alleged discrimination. So it seems like they're ganging up on Arizona - the people of Arizona over this illegal immigration problem. ...They have to describe what they want. They want the whole world. Limit what they want. What did they ask us what they want?"
Arpaio cast himself as "the puppet" in a political battle with Washington and added: "We'll see them in court."
During the interview, I also asked Arpaio about an issue that became a flashpoint in an Arizona gubernatorial debate Wednesday night. Democrat Terry Goddard pressed GOP Gov. Jan Brewer to recant a statement she made earlier this year suggesting Arizona law enforcement officials had found examples of beheadings that Brewer linked to the illegal immigration problem. Media reports in the state have found no evidence of beheadings reported to or by law enforcement agencies.
Brewer did not recant during the debate and ignored reporters' questions about the issue after.
Here is the exchange with Sheriff Arpaio on the issue:
KING: "Have you ever, in your case, either in your county or talking to your law enforcement colleagues in other parts of the state, heard of beheadings?
ARPAIO: "Well, I - I'm not going to speak for her. That's her comments. I'm not running for governor. I did spend 14 years in Mexico and the border. But I don't know, maybe she was talking across the border. You know, Mexico, the United States and Canada are North America. I don't know what she was talking about. But I'm not going to talk - I'm not running for governor. You're going to have to ask her what she meant by that, not me.
KING: "All right, let me just set her aside then. Have you - have you ever come across evidence or a report from your county or a neighboring county of a beheading in Arizona?"
ARPAIO: "Well, I haven't. That doesn't mean other people have. But I sure - I'll tell you one thing, there's plenty of beheadings going on right across the border."